Smithsonian Institution
Global Volcanism Network Bulletin v. 20, no. 3, March 1995

Fernandina (Galapagos Islands)  Lava enters the sea at three
      locations; ejections from lava lake

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
0.37S, 91.55W; summit elev. 1,495 m
All times are local (= GMT - 6 hours)

Fernandina continued to erupt in late March. While acting as a
guide for a film crew, Godfrey Merlin made his third visit to the
two-month-old eruption (Bulletin v. 20, nos. 1-2) and reported on
26 March concerning the 30 hours the group spent at the volcano.

Lava flowing into the sea was concentrated in three areas. Two
areas were the same as two months earlier, and the third was ~400
m to the N. Most of the lava descended the near-vertical shoreline,
a sea-cliff that was typically ~4-m high and being progressively
undercut by wave action removing sand along its base. Flowing in
channels of 0.5-1.5 m width, the lava often dripped into the ocean,
although Merlin noted that the lava to the N had "the appearance of
water cascading to the sea." Discolored water still surrounded the
lava's ocean entries. The amount of lava flowing into the sea was
difficult to judge, but at least one substantial fluctuation in
flow volume was seen during their 30-hour visit.

The group reached shore at the Cape Hammond landing, an area rich
in wildlife that could have been threatened if lava flows had
continued to progress in that direction. They found that nearby
flow fronts remained immobile since the previous visit (see map and
GPS stations in Bulletin v. 20, no. 2). Merlin suggested that the
lava issuing from main vent (now a well-formed cone), was
descending in old tubes to the shore. At night, no incandescence
could be seen between the main vent and the sea. During the day, in
the upper third of this interval, white vapor rose from the lava
flows but otherwise there was little surface evidence of their

While hiking to the main vent they heard several explosions and saw
molten lava "tossed above the rim of the cone every few seconds."
Nevertheless, Merlin and Mr. Iwago of the Japanese Broadcasting
Corporation (NGK) ascended the cone's base, which they described as
built on "huge blocks of reddish-gray rock jumbled together" with
intermediate spaces "filled with glassy scoria." Next, they
descended into a shallow valley of scoria with extremely hot vents,
some ringed by white deposits. They climbed the upper slopes of the
spatter cone from the E, upwind side, and found that the cone held
a "heaving, rolling, red sea of molten lava" that was ~30-40 m in
diameter and 40 m below the cone's rim. Spatter was thrown ~70 m
above the lava lake's surface. On the cone's W side, lava flowed
over the rim and descended into a tube within the cone.

They found eight dead marine iguanas. Although their appearance
ranged from unscorched to charred, the iguanas had each been
"literally cooked on the surface of the lava." The group also noted
that live iguanas continued to invade the still-hot surface. In
contrast to earlier in the eruption, no dead fish were seen
floating along the coast and accordingly the large number of sea
birds that previously had come to feed on them were absent.

Information Contacts: Godfrey Merlen, skipper of motor vessel
"Ratty," Fundacion Charles Darwin Para Las Islas Galapagos,
Estacion Cientifica Charles Darwin, Ecuador.